The Wackness Soundtrack is The Dopeness
The year was 1994. Giuliani was clearing the New York streets of drug dealers, hookers and the homeless. Teens were snorting Ritalan, Kurt Cobain had just put a shotgun to his face and pagers were the easiest way to communicate on the go. If you wanted to play video games, you probably had to blow on the Nintendo cartridges to make them work and 90210 was must see TV.
So goes the temporal benchmarks of The Wackness. That, and the music. Oh the music. Notorious B.I.G. was first breaking on the scene, Will Smith was the Fresh Prince, bringing us Summertime tunes, and R. Kelly was bumping and grinding but had yet to take lewd pictures (at least that we knew of).
So goes the soundtrack to The Wackness. Sixteen songs to tell the tale of early 90’s New York through the eyes of a good-hearted drug dealer trying to find his way in the world alongside Ben Kingsley the psychiatrist who trades advice for dime bags of dope.
Nas kicks off the movie with “The World Is Yours,” an ironic anthem for a shy teen whose extant ventures take him to exotic places such as Queens and Brooklyn but no further. Raekwon’s “Heaven and Hell” sets the tone for the party, where Lucas finds and loses the girl of his dreams. In another funny twist, Method Man the actor talks about Notorious B.I.G., while listening to “The What,” a song that Method Man the rapper recorded with Biggie in the early 90s. Not surprisingly for the period, the love song features Faith Evans and the love scene is told through R. Kelly’s “Bump N’ Grind.” But it doesn’t stop there. A walk through the park features a sample of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It.”
The two most random songs on the soundtrack are the doctor’s picks – first on the jukebox – “Season of the Witch” by Donovan; and then on his mixtape – Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes.” Yet both are perfect picks and the latter is particularly appropriate, given that Ben Kingsley spends the movie longing to be a young dude and passing on the wisdom of an old, not quite sage.
For these reasons and many more, The Wackness may be the best soundtrack of the year. For me, it is the rap equivalent of Garden State: music was as essential to the telling of both stories. In fact, even though High Fidelity was all about mixtapes, the mixes in The Wackness were far better and more telling than the former. That is why I can say without reservation that, as Stephanie, the psychiatrist’s step daughter would say, “The Wackness is the Dopeness.”
Here are a few of my favorites from the movie:
Can I Kick It by A Tribe Called Quest
And The Wu-Tang Clan’s “Tearz”: